Ex-NBA Player John Amaechi Humiliated at London Heathrow Airport After Private Search Because He Was ‘Too Big’ for Scanner

John Amaechi Airplane Incident
(Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

Ex-NBA player John Amaechi was forced to undergo a “humiliating” private search by London Heathrow Airport staff after being told he was “too big” for the security scanners, according to reports.

“Just had to go through a ‘private’ search at @HeathrowAirport. First ‘beep’ was ‘random selection’ (almost every time) then another machine gave a ‘double yellow’ (because) – & I quote ‘you are too big.’ Then a private search (with) 2 people. Humiliating to be escorted away. Furious, again.”

What Happened To John Amaechi In Airport? 

Amaechi, who stands at 6’9″, was flagged down twice by airport personnel, once for random selection and the second for being too big for the security scanner.

As someone who has been searched by airport security, this writer would say they can be very overzealous with the way they conduct “private” searches when the scanner alerts. It’s really unnecessary. Everyone wants to have safety and security at airports but searches can be done in a way that isn’t dehumanizing.

“I am a 6ft 9in black man standing in security, clearly not able to move on from my free will, and the passengers … are looking at me – like what’s he done? – as I stand there for 12-15 minutes,” Amaechi said. “Then you go into a private room where two men watch you while you are searched – more invasive than when people can see you. The idea that a random beep can escalate to that seems outrageous to me.”

Was John Amaechi Victim Of Racial Profiling? 

Amaechi said that two of the security personnel that conducted the search were Asian and were polite, and he didn’t blame them for any kind of bias on their parts. Still, he talked about a larger system of racial profiling.

“They were part of a system that says some people look like trouble and some people don’t. It’s not Heathrow’s problem in terms of its source – but it is in Heathrow’s gift to change how they respond.”

A spokesperson for London Heathrow apologized to Amaechi and another offered the following explanation of their procedures.

“We understand that being called for additional security checks can have an impact on a passenger’s experience at the airport.
“These extra checks are not discriminatory and will only ever happen for reasons of security. Whenever this is needed, we will invite the passenger to a private room so these checks can take place promptly and in private.
“Our aim is to complete this process as smoothly as possible and allow passengers to continue on their journey. We want everyone to feel safe and welcome at Heathrow whether they are a passenger or a colleague.”

Unfortunately, the basic standard of decency isn’t practiced or shared widely and incidents like this will continue.

First Openly Gay NBA Player 

Amaechi played in the NBA for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz. The British-American player became a psychologist, businessman and best-selling author upon retirement and was awarded an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2011 for his services to sports.

In 2007, Amaechi became the first former NBA player to publicly come out as gay after doing so in his memoir “Man in the Middle.”